Monday, March 5, 2018

CD Review: Chris Hillman's The Asylum Years (2018)

Chris Hillman's The Asylum Years
One of the original members of legendary ‘60s band the Byrds, Chris Hillman’s post-band career took a lot more twists and turns than his Byrdsian colleagues. After recording a half-dozen classic albums and touring the world with the band circa 1965-68, Hillman followed Gram Parsons out the door after the release of the ground-breaking Sweetheart of the Rodeo album. Not satisfied with (arguably) inventing the country-rock genre with the aforementioned classic LP, Hillman and Parsons formed the Flying Burrito Brothers, which took rock ‘n’ roll further into the woods with albums like 1969’s The Gilded Palace of Sin and 1970’s Burrito Deluxe. Leaving the Burritos behind after 1971’s self-titled swansong LP, Hillman did a short stint with Stephen Stills’ Manassas (recording two albums with the band).

With a little prompting from Asylum Records’ David Geffen, Hillman formed the Souther-Hillman-Furay Band, a sort of country-rock “supergroup,” with Poco’s Richie Furay and singer/songwriter John David “J.D.” Souther. That band’s two recordings yielding a modest hit in 1974 with “Fallin’ In Love,” from their self-titled debut disc, but tensions among the three major players broke the band up shortly after the release of their aptly-named sophomore effort, 1975’s Trouble In Paradise. In between the Burritos and S/H/F, Hillman snuck away for a brief (and short-lived) Byrds reunion that resulted in a self-titled 1973 album that proved to be the band’s swansong (and wasn’t nearly as bad as reviews at the time would have you believe).

Chris Hillman’s The Asylum Years

Hillman launched his solo career with the 1976 release of Slippin’ Away. It was a move the singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist talent should have taken after the Burrito Brothers jumped the tracks five years earlier. Better late than never, perhaps, and after cranking out a brace of original songs – the lead-off track co-written with Crawdaddy magazine editor Peter Knobler – Hillman gathered up friends and session pros like guitarists Steve Cropper (Booker T & the M.G.’s) and Bernie Leadon (another Burritos alum), pedal steel maestro Al Perkins, and drummers Jim Gordon and Joe LaLa, among several others, to record Slippin’ Away.

You won’t hear much of the Byrds in Slippin’ Away, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing – Hillman’s contributions to his legendary former band are solid and indisputable – but with this first shot at a solo career, Hillman walked down the California “avocado rock” * pathway blazed by singer/songwriters like Jackson Browne, James Taylor, and Joni Mitchell. In many ways, Slippin’ Away reminds me of Jay Ferguson’s solo work after leaving Spirit, folk-infused lite rock with the rough edges smoothed away. The album-opening “Step On Out” evinces an island vibe with exotic rhythms and Hillman’s spry acoustic strum while the lush “Falling Again” hides its country twang beneath an undeniable melody and thick instrumentation.

The Hillman original “Take It On The Run” sounds like an obscure Eagles album outtake, a SoCal-flavored blend of country roots and rock rhythms with tasty slide-guitar courtesy of Donnie Dacus, a Texas guitarist who would later play with all four members of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young before eventually joining Chicago. Hillman covers former bandmate Stephen Still’s “Witching Hour” with reckless aplomb, capturing the song’s haunting soundscape with some nice 12-string licks by Hillman, Dacus’s slide guitar, and Albhy Galuten’s atmospheric synth flourishes. Hillman’s “Midnight Again” is, perhaps, the best tune on Slippin’ Away, the singer allowing his county side to blossom with twangy abandon, assisted by the fatback sound of Perkins’ and Croppers’ snaky guitar licks.

Clear Sailin’

Chris Hillman
Chris Hillman photo courtesy Omnivore Recordings
Slippin’ Away didn’t set the woods on fire, commercially, but Asylum believed in its artist and put him back in the studio to record a second album, Clear Sailin’. The label used fewer high-priced session pros in the studio the second time around, instead forming a de facto band around Hillman that included guitarists John Brennen and Richard Marx (yes, that Richard Marx), bassist Larry Sims, keyboardist/steel guitarist Skip Edwards, and drummer Merel Bregante. The assembled musicians acquit themselves well on a spirited collection of laid-back “avocado rock” that carries on the sound of the debut album, with Crawdaddy’s Knobler on board to help co-write a handful of songs. The album-opening “Nothing Gets Through” evinces a similar rhythmic tropical island vibe as the lead-off on Slippin’ Away, but with spicier guitar licks, Alan Garth’s trilling recorder, and a more up-tempo musical arrangement.

Hillman’s original “Fallen Favorite” is a lovely mid-tempo ballad that features one of the singer’s best vocal performances, lush instrumentation peppered with weepy pedal steel guitar, and insightful romance-gone-wrong lyrics. Given the state of FM radio in ’77, it could have been a hit single. Instead Asylum released the trite Carole Bayer Sager tune “Heartbreaker” as the album’s lone 45rpm representative; Hillman does his best with the saccharine lyrics and messy arrangement, but the man’s no miracle worker. Much better is “Hot Dusty Roads,” a country-flavored up-tempo mid-rocker with more colorful and imaginative lyrics and a charming soundtrack.

After the failure of “Heartbreaker” to break onto the charts, Asylum went backwards to the debut album and released “Slippin’ Away” as Hillman’s second 1977 single. For a label that basically defined the Cali-bred “avocado rock” sound with artists like Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, Joni Mitchell, and the Eagles, Asylum sure as hell didn’t know what to do with Chris Hillman. Aside from “Hot Dusty Roads,” Hillman’s original “Playing the Fool,” a spry mid-tempo heartbreaker, or Hillman’s loving cover of Smoky Robinson’s “Ain’t That Peculiar,” which he infuses with an odd but effective sort of country soul and funky rhythm (fueled by Garth’s blazing saxwork), would have made for great plays on AM or FM radio at the time. The album’s title track is equally charming, with mesmerizing instrumentation and gentle vocal harmonies that could have made it a “yacht rock” classic.

The Reverend’s Bottom Line

Archive specialists Omnivore Recordings have reissued Slippin’ Away and Clear Sailin’ for the first time, presented together on a single CD with no bonus tracks under the title The Asylum Years. Liner notes by writer Scott Schinder include fresh quotes from Hillman, who looks back fondly on the creation of his first two solo albums as a “growing process.” After Clear Sailin’ barely slipped onto the charts, Hillman put his solo career on hold for five years to reunite with former Byrds members Roger McGuinn and Gene Clark as McGuinn, Clark & Hillman. The trio recorded a pair of albums before Hillman returned to his solo work and albums like Morning Sky (1982) and Desert Rose (1984).

In the mid-‘80s, Hillman formed the Desert Rose Band, a modestly successful country band that ran from 1985 through 1994 and reunited in 2008, the singer/songwriter only sporadically returning to his solo career, most recently with the Tom Petty-produced, critically acclaimed 2017 album Bidin’ My Time. But if Slippin’ Away and Clear Sailin’ represent the first tentative steps of Chris Hillman as band leader and primary songwriter, they were also solid stand-alone albums that display a different side of Hillman’s talents, and a welcome addition to the artist’s canon of work that stretches from 1965 and the Byrds’ Mr. Tambourine Man to Bidin’ My Time (and, hopefully, beyond...). Grade: B+ (Omnivore Recordings, released February 9, 2018)

* Thanx to fellow scribe Martin Popoff who, for all I know, coined the “avocado rock” term that I’ve used here...

Buy the CD from Chris Hillmans The Asylum Years

Sunday, March 4, 2018

1968 Revisited: Blue Cheer's Vincebus Eruptum & Outsideinside

Blue Cheer's Vincebus Eruptum
Back in the primordial stew that was mid-to-late 1960s era rock ‘n’ roll, record label execs were literally clueless about the music, and were just as likely to chase trends as they were to discover new talent. With their collective ears to the ground, they listened for the buzz, and in 1966 and ‘67, nowhere was the howling louder than in the San Francisco Bay area. The region was home to a virtual buffet of bands and styles, from the electrified blues-rock of Big Brother & the Holding Company (featuring Janis Joplin) and the folk-influenced psychedelia of Jefferson Airplane to the Grateful Dead’s original roots-rock stew.

What was missing from the San Francisco sound was a true hard rock band…and into the breach would step the almighty Blue Cheer. Louder, bolder, and brasher than any other band on the scene, Blue Cheer evolved…or some would say mutated…from a six-piece blues-rock outfit complete with dueling guitarists and a harmonica player, into a nasty, turbocharged power trio in the image of the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Signed to Dutch-based Phillips Records, noted mostly for its success in the classical music field, Blue Cheer represented the label’s attempt to capitalize on the growing garage-rock side of pop music.

Phillips had no idea what they were getting themselves in for, however. Blue Cheer was brought to their attention by fledgling producer and popular S.F. radio deejay Abe “Voco” Kesh, an Armenian blues fan who would also discover guitarist Harvey Mandel. The band was managed by a Hell’s Angel member nicknamed “Gut” and, well, Blue Cheer had a tendency to play every bit as loud in the studio as they did on stage, redlining the equipment and freaking out the recording engineer.

While Phillips may have thought that they were getting an American version of Eric Clapton and Cream, or maybe even Led Zeppelin, what they got was Vincebus Eruptum, a debut album completely devoid of melody, bruising songs performed by sonic thugs who mangled the blues-rock equation with squalls of piercing guitar and spine-bashing rhythmic overkill.

Blue Cheer’s Vincebus Eruptum

Blue Cheer’s Vincebus Eruptum roared out of the gate, literally, with bluster and ferocity that wouldn’t be matched for almost a decade…or until Motörhead released its ground-breaking, earth-shaking 1977 debut album. Released in early 1968 and riding on the back of the band’s first Top 20 single – a grungy, fuzztone, feedback-ridden reading of Eddie Cochran’s “Summertime Blues” (also successfully covered by the Who) – the album would peak at number eleven on the Billboard Top 200 albums chart, and rock ‘n’ roll would never be the same again. This Sundazed Records label CD reissue restores the album to its glorious, bulldozer mono mix.

“Summertime Blues” still sounds pretty damn hot today, although Blue Cheer’s performance of the song has long since been overshadowed by the Sturm and Drang of thousands of bands that followed the same blueprint to musical notoriety in the decades to follow. In its day, though, the song sounded like nothing and nobody else – not for Blue Cheer the fey moptop harmonies of the British Invasion bands, or even the niceties of polite, boy-next-door garage-band America. Blue Cheer’s “Summertime Blues” sounded like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse straddling their iron steeds, belching fire and shrouded in smoke, filthy rock ‘n’ roll bikers coming for your daughters with phallic guitars and amps set on eleven.

Guitarist Leigh Stephens’ fretwork on the song broke new ground, establishing the framework for what would eventually become heavy metal, ringing with reckless abandon, the performance itself riff-happy, druggy, feedback-drenched psychedelic-blues with the heaviest bass line the recording tape could capture, and drums that sounded like the soundtrack to a short boat ride down the River Styx. That “Summertime Blues” became a hit single is a testament to the musical anarchy that ruled the 1960s, as well as an indicator of the madness creeping into rock ‘n’ roll.

Much of Vincebus Eruptum follows along the same darkened path towards insanity, the band forever corrupting traditional blues in a haphazard and amphetamine-fueled haze of which Eric Clapton and Cream, or even John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers could never conceive. A cover of B.B. King’s classic “Rock Me Baby” is warped beyond even the low standards the band set with “Summertime Blues,” the song’s sludge-like dino-stomp pacing matched by Stephens’ razor-sharp, demented fretwork (a mutant approximation of King’s unique single-note leads), bassist Dickie Peterson’s husky voice lacking all pretense of nuance as he mauls the lyrics…only drummer Paul Whaley manages to come anywhere near a standard blues rhythm, but even that is lost come the bridge as chaos reigns, Stephens’ axe flies off the planet, and the once-subtle percussion explodes like a brick of C4.

Even Peterson’s original songs evince the same sort of dirty, greasy signature as the band’s much-beloved cover tunes. “Doctor Please” sounds like Humble Pie thrown down a deep, dark well, the bass-drums rhythm track creating an enormously claustrophobic vibe while Stephens’ manic mangling of his guitar bludgeons the listener with sound and fury. “Out Of Focus” isn’t much different, although it does allow Stephens to show off a few more chops than his previous stammer-and-stun, and the band strikes a sort of slippery groove as Peterson’s quicksand vocals barely project above the din of the instrumental soundtrack.

Vincebus Eruptum closes out with a particularly-inspired cover of Mose Allison’s classic “Parchman Farm” (notoriously listed on the album cover as “Parchment Farm”). Performed as a sequel, of sorts, to “Summertime Blues,” the band cops an almost identical melodic arrangement as their hit single upon which to unravel Allison’s lyrical tale of betrayal. Stephens’ solos bob and weave like a punch-drunk prizefighter throughout the five-minute jam, Whaley’s drumwork slips and slides from light-fingered, jazzy brushes to jackhammer blasts of white light, while Peterson’s leaden bass technique clearly opens the door for Black Sabbath’s Geezer Butler to stagger through a year later.

Whaley’s tribal drumming intros the blast furnace that is “Second Time Around,” the song teetering on the edge as it balances a semblance of garage-rock innocence and melody with the freefalling musical cacophony that characterized the most adventurous of the era’s psychedelic acid rock explorers. Although the song won’t open your third eye, its overall oozing instrumental mud is certain to bongo-beat your eardrums even as it carelessly slaps your medulla oblongata into submission. And that’s it for Blue Cheer’s debut album…six tarpit tapestries, roughly half-an-hour in length, which will take you days to recuperate from...

Blue Cheer's Outsideinside


Blue Cheer’s Outsideinside

How do you follow up a hit album, as unlikely as its success may have been? For Blue Cheer, whose debut disc Vincebus Eruptum hit number eleven on the albums chart, spawning a Top 20 hit single with a cover of “Summertime Blues,” you basically follow the words yet spoken by drive-in movie critic Joe Bob Briggs. Sayeth the beloved B-movie scribe, “if you’re gonna make a sequel, make a sequel. Bring the dead people back to life and do it all over again.” And that’s pretty much what Blue Cheer did with their sophomore effort Outsideinside...resurrect all the bodies they’d buried with their blunt-edged, riff-driven musical attack while refining their sound with an even muddier mix and a bunch of new, but no less dull and rust-flaked, production tools.

Whereas Blue Cheer’s debut was louder than the ass-end of a fighter jet, and denser than a room full of politicians, the album’s production was ultimately designed…if, indeed, much thought went into it at all…to mimic the band’s incendiary live shows. With Outsideinside, however, they were seemingly inspired by all of the psychedelic outlaws that made up their hometown music scene, bands like the Jefferson Airplane and Quicksilver Messenger Service who were using the full capabilities of contemporary recording technology to create a multi-textured, head-tripping sound. In the hands of Blue Cheer and heavy-handed producer Abe “Voco” Kesh, these advances in studio tech smoothed out some, but not all of the band’s jagged edges, and further reinforced the smothering wall-of-noise that was the Blue Cheer trademark. It seems that while their first album had been recorded under the influence of whiskey and amphetamines, Outsideinside displayed a definite hallucinogenic influence.

As such, Leigh Stephens’ guitar was multi-tracked and multiplied in the mix, his free-riffing technique flying straight out of your speakers like a pissed-off honey badger. Dickie Peterson’s already heavier-than-uranium bass style was reduced to a thick, migraine-inducing throb while Paul Whaley’s drums were frequently downplayed to a mere eardrum-shredding sledgehammer rather than the head-bashing wrecking ball that had almost dominated Vincebus Eruptum. While Outsideinside lacked the casual menace and amateurish, bang-a-gong mentality of its predecessor, that’s not to say that it was lacking in velocity or ferocity. The band still pursued a louder-than-God, blues-infused psychedelic-rock sound, albeit with a few more vintage R&B and boogie-blues elements thrown into the boiling brew this time around.

For instance, the album-opening original “Feathers From Your Tree” starts out like your typical hippie hash, with a few folkie strings and odd vocal harmonies, Peterson’s voice almost lost in the chorus until the nut breaks open and Stephens’ six-string begins screaming and Whaley’s percussion stirs up a lazy cyclone comprised of flurries of drumbeats and raffish whacks on the old cymbal. Altogether, the song is somewhat more claustrophobic and schizophrenic than much of the era’s psych-rock and clearly foreshadows the coming flood of doom-minded fellow travelers like Sir Lord Baltimore, Black Sabbath, and Pentagram.

Peterson’s “Just A Little Bit” breaths a little fire-and-brimstone into the album’s grooves, picking up the pace with a mid-tempo yet undeniably muddy performance where the vocals are sinking quick in the song’s quicksand arrangement, Whaley’s drums blast away like a chattering machinegun, and Stephens’ multi-tracked guitars stun in their fuzzy magnificence with both a fluid tone and imaginative phrasing. The group-written “Come And Get It” is a flashback to the band’s debut, a muscular, Cro-Mag composition that offers up raging fretwork, hurricane-strength blast-beats, and Peterson’s speed king vocals shouting up from the darkness of the mix.

Whereas a full half of the songs on the Blue Cheer’s debut had been covers, Outsideinside offers up only two significant departures from the band’s new internal songwriting dynamic. The Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” is revved-up and amped-up beyond the original’s heart-attack pace, Blue Cheer stripping down the instrumentation at times to just Stephens’ humming, buzzing guitar, the entire thing racing past your ears like a bad dream. Whaley’s locomotive drumbeats drive the performance to a manic crescendo as Stephens’ solos sting like a knife-cut behind Peterson’s speedfreak vox.

By contrast, the band’s cover of Albert King’s “The Hunter” (also done nicely by British blues-rockers Free) is about as straight a performance as the trio could muster with this short-lived line-up. Peterson’s vocals are edgy, but the groove is fat and swings hard, and Stephens’ guitarwork is uncharacteristically subdued. The Stephens-Peterson collaboration “Magnolia Caboose Babyfinger,” later covered (appropriately) by Seattle tricksters Mudhoney during the grungy 1990s, is a short, sharp shock of an instrumental, hitting a quick lick and quitting in favor of the album-closing musical strokefest that is “Babylon.” Pulling out all the stops, Blue Cheer crowbar every psychedelic cliché and hard rock sleight-of-hand they can imagine into slightly less than four-and-a-half minutes, thus giving birth to both Iron Butterfly, Kyuss, and therefore, Queens of the Stone Age.

The Reverend’s Bottom Line

Lacking both the ear-shattering charisma and the shocking element of surprise that made Vincebus Eruptum an unexpected hit, Outsideinside fared much less well commercially, the album barely scraping its way into the Top 100 and failing to yield even a moderately-successful single. The tide had quickly turned for Blue Cheer, and guitarist Leigh Stephens would become the band’s first – although nowhere near its last – casualty, leaving before the recording of 1969’s New! Improved! to pursue a solo career with the release of his future cult fave album Red Weather.

Meanwhile, Dickie Peterson would carry the torch as Blue Cheer’s original founding member, leading various band line-ups well into the 21st century with a number of album releases and sporadic touring, the band’s 2007 swansong What Doesn’t Kill You… a welcome return to the caveman-dumb dinosaur rock that built Blue Cheer’s reputation in the first place. Sadly, the band’s return to rock would be sidetracked when Peterson, the prototype hard rock bassist, passed away in 2009. Still, there’s no underestimating the band’s influence on the evolution of rock ‘n’ roll, and its status as one of a handful of true originators of heavy, heavy music.

Buy the CDs from
Blue Cheer’s Vincebus Eruptum
Blue Cheer’s Outsideinside 

1968 Revisited

Spirit's Spirit
We’re changing our editorial focus here at That Devil, moving away from current music news and reviews and into more of an archival direction. Readers can find out about the latest Grizzly Bear or Bon Iver album at any one of hundreds of music-oriented websites and blogs; we’re choosing to move forward into the past by looking back at great rock and blues albums that beg to be “rediscovered” in this hectic world of media streaming and downloads, too many new releases often accompanied by what famed rock critic Rick Johnson called “bloato hype.” 

From now through the end of 2018, the Reverend will be celebrating some of the incredible music released 50 years ago, during the year 1968, with historical album reviews posted under the tag “1968 Revisited.” The site will still feature sporadic posts about new projects that capture our fancy, and we’ll continue with our “Short Rounds” and “Bootleg Rodeo” review columns as well as our monthly “New Music Report.” We also have plans to resurrect our long-dormant “Lost & Found” feature spotlighting obscure artists and albums.

In a blogosphere overfilled with websites expounding on the trendiest new artists, many of whom are hot shit today and gone tomorrow, we’d rather spend our time revisiting and remembering those records that brought innovation and imagination to rock ‘n’ roll and brought the blues to wider audiences. After checking out the list of 1968 album releases below, we think that you’ll agree with our changes. If not, too bad…the Rev is an old fart and unrepentant ‘rockist’ sitting around with his Byrds and Buffalo Springfield records and doesn’t care a whit about your “EDM” or modern rock darlings. So join us in our crate-digging efforts to revisit the tunes of ‘68...       

Blue Cheer's Vincebus Eruptum

Blue Cheer – Vincebus Eruptum
The Byrds – The Notorious Byrd Brothers
Canned Heat – Boogie with Canned Heat
Dr. John – Gris Gris
The Electric Prunes – Mass In F Minor
Aretha Franklin – Lady Soul
Richie Havens – Something Else Again
Iron Butterfly – Heavy
Kaleidoscope – A Beacon From Mars
Spirit – Spirit
Steppenwolf – Steppenwolf
Them – Now and Them
Velvet Underground – White Light/White Heat

Blood, Sweat & Tears – Child Is Father To the Man
The Chocolate Watch Band – The Inner Mystique
Fleetwood Mac – Fleetwood Mac
The Rascals – Once Upon A Dream
Otis Redding – The Dock of the Bay
Vanilla Fudge – The Beat Goes On

The Chocolate Watch Band'sThe Inner Mystique

Electric Flag – A Long Time Comin’
The Incredible String Band – The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter
The International Submarine Band – Safe At Home
The Mothers of Invention – We’re Only In It For the Money
The Move – The Move
The United States of America – The United States of America

Amboy Jukes – Journey To the Center of the Mind
Booker T & the M.G.’s – Doin’ Our Thing
James Brown – I Got the Feelin’
Eric Burdon & the Animals – The Twain Shall Meet
Moby Grape – Wow/Grape Jam
The Monkees – The Birds, the Bees & the Monkees
Simon & Garfunkel – Bookends
Sly & the Family Stone – Dance To the Music
The Temptations – The Temptations Wish It Would Rain
The Zombies – Odessey & Oracle

The Zombies' Odessey & Oracle

Blues Magoos – Basic Blues Magoos
The Mamas & the Papas – The Papas & the Mamas
Elvis Presley – Speedway OST
Quicksilver Messenger Service – Quicksilver Messenger Service
Small Faces – Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake

Chicken Shack – 40 Blues Fingers, Freshly Packed and Ready To Serve
Fairport Convention – Fairport Convention
Aretha Franklin – Aretha Now
Iron Butterfly – In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida
John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers – Bare Wires
Steve Miller Band – Children of the Future
Pentangle – The Pentangle
Pink Floyd – A Saucerful of Secrets
Silver Apples – Silver Apples
Spooky Tooth – It’s All About
Vanilla Fudge – Renaissance

The Doors' Waiting For The Sun

Mike Bloomfield & Al Kooper – Super Session
The Band – Music From the Big Pink
Buffalo Springfield – Last Time Around
Cream – Wheels of Fire
Creedence Clearwater Revival – Creedence Clearwater Revival
Deep Purple – Shades of Deep Purple
The Doors – Waiting For the Sun
Family – Music In A Doll’s House
Grateful Dead – Anthem of the Sun
The Millennium – Begin
The Moody Blues – In Search of the Lost Chord
Savoy Brown – Getting To the Point
Tyrannosaurus Rex – My People Were Fair and Had Sky In Their Hair

Jeff Beck Group – Truth
Big Brother & the Holding Company – Cheap Thrills
Blue Cheer – Outsideinside
James Brown – James Brown Plays Nothing But Soul
James Brown – Live at the Apollo, Volume II
Eric Burdon & the Animals – Every One of Us
The Byrds – Sweetheart of the Rodeo
Country Joe & the Fish – Together
Donovan – Donovan In Concert
Fleetwood Mac – Mr. Wonderful
Marvin Gaye – I Heard It Through the Grapevine
Etta James – Tell Mama
Ten Years After – Undead

Big Brother & the Holding Company's Cheap Thrills

Jefferson Airplane – Crown of Creation
Procol Harum – Shine On Brightly
Sly & the Family Stone – Life
Status Quo – Picturesque Matchstickable Messages From the Status Quo

The Beau Brummels – Bradley’s Barn
Deep Purple – The Book of Taliesyn
Donovan – The Hurdy Gurdy Man
Aretha Franklin – Aretha Live
Jimi Hendrix Experience – Electric Ladyland
Jethro Tull – This Was
Magic Sam – Black Magic
Steve Miller Band – Sailor
Nazz – Nazz
Otis Redding – In Person At the Whiskey A Go Go
Steppenwolf – The Second
Three Dog Night – Three Dog Night
Traffic – Traffic
Tyrannosaurus Rex – Prophets, Seers & Sages: The Angels of the Ages
Muddy Waters – Electric Mud

The Kinks' The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society

The Beatles – The Beatles
Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band – The Doughnut In Granny’s Greenhouse
Canned Heat – Living the Blues
The Electric Prunes – Release of An Oath
George Harrison – Wonderwall Music
The Incredible String Band – Wee Tam and the Big Huge
The Kinks – The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society
John Lennon & Yoko Ono – Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins
John Mayall – Blues From Laurel Canyon
Van Morrison – Astral Weeks
The Nice – Ars Longa Vita Brevis
Nico – The Marble Index
Elvis Presley – Elvis
Them – Time Out! Time In For Them
The Turtles – The Turtles Present the Battle of the Bands
Neil Young – Neil Young

Eric Burdon & the Animals – Live Is
Taj Mahal – The Natch’l Blues
The Monkees – Head
The Mothers of Invention – Cruisin’ with Ruben & the Jets
Pentangle – Sweet Child
The Rolling Stones – Beggars Banquet
Tom Rush – The Circle Game
The Soft Machine – The Soft Machine
Spirit – The Family That Plays Together
James Taylor – James Taylor
The Temptations – Live At the Copa
Stevie Wonder – For Once In My Life

Frank Zappa's Cruising with Ruben & the Jets

Links in album titles are to the Reverend's review...

Friday, March 2, 2018

CD Preview: King Crimson’s Live In Vienna 2016

King Crimson's Live In Vienna
Those fearsome road warriors King Crimson seldom perform any song the same way twice; neither are their nightly performances as cut-and-dried in structure as many performers. This free-wheeling approach to their music has not only made them an in-demand touring band but it has also created a collecting frenzy for their frequently-released live albums. Crimson may not be the Grateful Dead of the 21st century, but they’re offering a similar fan-friendly experience for loyal fans of their unique and complex music.

On April 6th, 2018 King Crimson will release Live In Vienna, December 1st, 2016, a three-disc box set that captures that night’s electrifying live performance. Mixed from the original multi-track tapes, the first two discs of the box provide listeners with the complete first and second sets from the concert. Disc three includes “a series of soundscapes edited into newly sequenced pieces” featuring band members Robert Fripp, Tony Levin, and Mel Collins, according to the press release for the album. The third disc also features the Vienna show encore as well as the first live performance of the song “Fracture” since 1974. The set is presented in a fold-out digifile package with 16-page booklet featuring tour photos and notes by writer David Singleton, all of it packaged in a slipcase.

The current King Crimson line-up includes guitarist Robert Fripp, bassist Tony Levin, guitarist and vocalist Jakko Jakszyk, saxophonist Mel Collins, keyboardist Bill Rieflin, and three drummers – Pat Mastelotto, Gavin Harrison, and Jeremy Stacey. The band spend much of 2017 touring the states, with their June show in Chicago immortalized by the release of the double-disc set Official Bootleg: Live In Chicago, June 28th, 2017. Crimson will be touring Europe and Japan during 2018.

Buy the CD from King Crimson’s Live In Vienna, December 1st, 2016

King Crimson’s Live In Vienna, December 1st, 2016 tracklist:

Disc One
First Set: Vienna 2016
1. Walk On: Soundscapes: Monk Morph Music Of The Chamber
2. Hell Hounds of Krim
3. Pictures of a City
4. Dawn Song (Suitable Grounds for the Blues)
6. The Construkction of Light
7. The Court of the Crimson King
8. The Letters
9. Sailors’ Tale
10. Interlude
11. Radical Action II
12. Level V

Disc Two
Second Set: Vienna 2016
1. Fairy Dust of the Drumsons
2. Peace: An End
3. Cirkus
4. Indiscipline
5. Epitaph
6. Easy Money
7. Devil Dogs of Tessellation Row
8. Red
9. Meltdown
10. Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Part Two
11. Starless

Disc Three
Encores and Expansions
1. Fracture
2. Heroes
3. 21st Century Schizoid Man
4. Schoenberg Softened His Hat
5. Ahriman's Ceaseless Corruptions
6. Spenta's Counter Claim

Wishbone Ash April 2018 U.S. Tour & Box Set

British rock legends Wishbone Ash will be hitting the pavement in the U.S. next month as part of their seemingly endless “Open Road Tour.” The band is preparing to celebrate its 50th anniversary next year, and although the last new Wishbone Ash album, Blue Horizon, was released in 2014 they’ve recently had a pair of their 1980s-era albums – 1982’s Twin Barrels Burning and 1985’s Raw To the Bone – reissued by Cherry Red Records.

To go along with their April tour dates, Madfish Records is releasing Wishbone Ash: The Vintage Years 1970-1991, a monster limited edition 30-disc career-spanning box set comprised of sixteen studio albums, three original live albums (on six discs), and eight previously-unreleased live performances dating from 1973 to 1980. Three of the band’s studio recordings (1987’s Nouveau Calls, 1989’s Here to Hear, and 1991’s Strange Affair), which were originally released by I.R.S. Records, are currently out-of-print and commanding collectors’ prices. All the music in the box set has been remastered from the original multitrack and ¼” tapes and the box includes a 156-page hardcover book written by Classic Rock zine’s Dave Ling, a 36-page poster book, photos, and scads of other band memorabilia.

As for the U.S. tour, the band will be performing in many venues that they haven’t visited in years, especially in the South and Southwest. Wishbone Ash logs roughly 30,000 miles on the road annually, their touring ethic and pioneering twin-guitar hard rock sound the key to their continued popularity as a live band. “The band basically lives together year-round on the road, so we have a very strong level of communication that translates in our performances and recordings,” says frontman Andy Powell in a press release for the tour. “We’ve come to an era where the industry has to pigeonhole a band as ‘Classic Rock’, ‘Prog Rock’, ‘Heritage Rock’ and so on. The truth is that we have always kept our options open and always relied on the musicianship of the players to lead the way. It’s fun to be stylistically diverse and this has, in its way, contributed to our longevity.”

April tour dates are listed below; be sure to make plans to catch Wishbone Ash when they come to your hometown!


Buy Wishbone Ash: The Vintage Years 1970-1991 from

Wishbone Ash April 2018 tour dates:
April 03 @ Harvester Performance Center, Rocky Mount VA
April 04 @ Neighborhood Theatre, Charlotte NC
April 06 @ City Winery, Atlanta GA
April 07 @ Maxwell C. King Center for the Performing Arts, Melbourne FL
April 08 @ Skippers Smokehouse, Tampa FL
April 11 @ House of Blues, New Orleans LA
April 13 @ Keys Lounge, Fort Worth TX
April 14 @ Sam's Burger Joint, San Antonio TX
April 15 @ One World Theatre, Austin TX
April 18 @ Rhythm Room, Phoenix AZ
April 19 @ Boulder Station Hotel Casino, Las Vegas NV
April 20 @ Canyon Club, Agoura Hills CA
April 21 @ The Rose, Pasadena CA
April 22 @ The Coach House, San Juan Capistrano CA
April 25 @ Yoshi's Jazz Club, Oakland CA
April 26 @ The Fox, Redwood City CA

Also on That Devil
Wishbone Ash: The Vintage Years box set
Andy Powell's Eyes Wide Open book review 

Thursday, March 1, 2018

New Music Monthly: March 2018 Releases

March looks like an incredible month for music, new and old alike, with fresh tunes from a reunited Fanny, David Byrne, Jack White, Americana legends 6 String Drag, metal mavens Judas Priest, the almighty Ministry, and the blues duo of Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite. Throw in reissues of righteous jams by Hawkwind, Tom Waits, NRBQ, and Geoff and Maria Muldaur as well as archive releases from Jimi Hendrix, Todd Rundgren, and Rev. Gary Davis and you have a great month for music that will definitely put a strain on your budget!

If we wrote about it here on the site, there'll be a link to it in the album title; if you want an album, hit the 'Buy!' link to get it from's just that damn easy! Your purchase puts money in the Reverend's pocket that he'll use to buy more music to write about in a never-ending loop of rock 'n' roll ecstasy!

Fanny's Fanny Walked The Earth

The Breeders - All Nerve   BUY!
Fanny - Fanny Walked the Earth   BUY!
Sue Foley - The Ice Queen   BUY!
Hawkwind - The Emergency Broadcast Years 1994-1997   BUY!
Moby - Everything Was Beautiful, And Nothing Hurt   BUY!
Todd Rungren - All Sides of the Roxy: May 1978   BUY!
Chris Smithers - Call Me Lucky   BUY!
Andrew W.K. - You're Not Alone   BUY!

Jimi Hendrix's Both Sides of the Sky

6 String Drag - Top of the World   BUY!
Allman Brothers Band - Back On the Road [radio broadcast]   BUY!
David Byrne - American Utopia   BUY!
Albert Hammond, Jr. - Francis Trouble   BUY!
Jimi Hendrix - Both Sides of the Sky   BUY!
Judas Priest - Firepower   BUY!
Marillion - Brave [deluxe box set]   BUY!
Matthews Southern Comfort - Like A Radio   BUY!
Ministry - AmeriKKKant   BUY!
Mud Morganfield - They Call Me Mud   BUY!
Nick Moss Band w/Dennis Gruenling - The High Cost of Low Living   BUY!
Uncle Walt's Band - Anthology   BUY!
Tom Waits - Closing Time [vinyl reissue]   BUY!
Various Artists - Memphis Rent Party [vinyl]   BUY!


The Decemberists - I'll Be Your Girl   BUY!
Yo La Tengo - There's A Riot Going On   BUY!

Rev. Gary Davis's The Avant Garde Recordings

Rev. Gary Davis - The Avant Garde Recordings   BUY!
Guided by Voices - Space Gun   BUY!
Michael Nesmith & the First National Band -  Loose Salute   BUY!
Michael Nesmith & the First National Band - Magnetic South   BUY!
Michael Nesmith & the First National Band - Nevada Fighter   BUY!
The Residents - Duck Stab/Buster & Glen [pREServed Edition]   BUY!
The Residents - Fingerprince [pREServed Edition]   BUY!
The Sword - Used Future   BUY!
Jack White - Boarding House Reach   BUY!

en Harper & Charlie Musslewhite's No Mercy In This Land

Ben Harper & Charlie Musslewhite - No Mercy In This Land   BUY!
Ken Hensley (ex Uriah Heep) - 'Rare & Timeless'   BUY!
The Lyman Family with Lisa Kindred - Avatar   BUY!
Geoff & Maria Muldaur - Pottery Pie   BUY!
Geoff & Maria Muldaur - Sweet Potatoes   BUY!

The Residents' Fingerprince

Album of the Month: The Residents' Fingerprince. In a month with new music from Jack White, Mud Morganfield, and David Byrne this is a hard call, but I'm going to go with one of the more obscure 1970s-era released by the enigmatic sonic terrorists the Residents. Part of the band's ongoing reissue series - many of these albums have been out-of-print for years - 1977's Fingerprince was the Residents' third LP and alongside the band's usual avant garde monkeywrenching, it featured innovative guitarist Snakefinger. The "pREServed Edition" reissue includes a second disc of live tracks and studio outtakes. A similar reissue of the band's Duck Stab/Buster & Glen EPs comes the same day; the Residents' groundbreaking, earthshaking first two albums were previously reissued with extra goodies, part of a year-long celebration of the little band that could...